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The assassination of Csar Alexander II
(5641 AM - 1881 CE)
The first Aliyah
(5642 AM - 1882 CE)
Hermann Adler, Chief Rabbi of Britain
(5651 AM - 1891 CE)
The degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus
(5655 AM - 1895 CE)
Theodor Herzl and Der Judenstaat
(5656 AM - 1896 CE)
The first Zionist Congress
(5657 AM - 1897 CE)
Herzl and Wilhelm II
(5658 AM - 1898 CE)
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
(5663 AM - 1903 CE)
The Kishinev pogrom
(5663 AM - 1903 CE)
Rav Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Mandate Israel
(5664 AM - 1904 CE)
The pogroms in Russia
(5665 AM - 1905 CE)
Rabbi Isaac Halevy Rabinowitz
(5666 AM - 1906 CE)
Joseph Hertz, war-time Chief Rabbi of Britain
(5673 AM - 1913 CE)
The Jews during the First World War
(5674 AM - 1914 CE)
The Russian Revolution
(5677 AM - 1917 CE)
The Balfour Declaration
(5677 AM - 1917 CE)
The Faisal-Weizmann Agreement
(5678 AM - 1918 CE)
The Palestine Arab Congress
(5679 AM - 1919 CE)
The Third Aliyah
(5679 AM - 1919 CE)
The prophecy of the Holocaust ?
(5680 AM - 1919 CE)
The San Remo Conference of 1920
(5680 AM - 1920 CE)
Meir Shapira and the Daf Yomi
(5684 AM - 1923 CE)
The riots of 1929 in Palestine
(5689 AM - 1929 CE)
The White Paper (1930)
(5690 AM - 1930 CE)
The Chazon Ish
(5693 AM - 1933 CE)
(5696 AM - 1936 CE)
(5698 AM - 1938 CE)
The doomed journey of the St. Louis
(5699 AM - 1939 CE)
Previous << Generation 48 >> Next
Hebrew years 5640 to 5760 (1880 - 2000 CE)
~~~ Part I ~~~ Part II ~~~
The assassination of Csar Alexander II in Saint Petersburg in March 1881 marked an evil turn for the Jews of Imperial Russia. His rule had been rather liberal compared to his predecessors and successors but he had however to suffer several assassination attempts. Just before his assassination, he was on the point to establish a constitution with an elected set of representatives, thus leading his Empire towards a Constitutional Monarchy. And before that, he had launched several reforms throughout his reign.
His assassination provoked an opposite policy. His successor Alexander III and the Russian administration decided upon harsh measures such as suppression of civil rights, enforcement of the power of the police and of the secret services (the Okhrana) to infiltrate the various anti-governmental groups.
Concerning the Jews, rumours spread that they were behind the plot of assassination. Anti-semitic riots, that became known as pogroms, started in Russia soon after and lasted several years, fuelled by the new regime's policy of finger-pointing against the Jewish community, used as a scapegoat against internal troubles of Imperial Russia. Indeed, a few weeks after the assassination, on the date of 4 May 1881 (Hebrew date of 6 Iyar 5641), new laws so-called the May Laws were enacted against the Jews.[3a]
It is worth noting that the date of 6 Iyar is marked with events that are connected to the creation of a Jewish State, the State of Israel. On that same date, in 1881, the policy that caused mass emigration of Jews to their future homeland was enacted. Then in 1920, on that same date, the San Remo Conference decision on 24 April 1920 (6 Iyar 5680) to form a British Mandate over Palestine following the end of World War I. Finally, on 15 May 1948 (6 Iyar 5708), the State of Israel was declared after the British Mandate had ended the day before.
As it happened before in History against rulers who pushed Jews out of their dominions,[3b] Alexander III himself and his sons were plagued with evil from that time, either dying from disease or assassination thus causing the end of the Romanov ruling family with the death of Nicholas II and his family in 1917.
When the situation started to drastically worsened for the Jews of Imperial Russia, many of them emigrated to other countries from 1882 until the start of the First World War in 1914. Some 2.5 million Jews emigrated to USA and Western Europe (such as Britain) in that period. Other opted to go to Palestine, which was under the Ottoman Empire. They formed what is referred as the First Aliyah, meaning a mass emigration to Israel. It is estimated that some 30,000 Jews came in these times. At the time of the "first" Aliyah, about 50,000 other Jews were already settled in Palestine: they descended from the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov and o the Vilna Gaon who had made a "religious Aliyah" between 1790 and 1812. But this Aliyah was never taken into account by the History...
The "first" Aliyah was particularly facilitated from 1890 by the Russian authorities who approved the setup of the Chovevei Zion (meaning the Lovers of Sion) in the city of Baku (now capital of the Republic of Azerbaijan) in 1891. This organisation was the first "Sionist" one and they created Jewish towns in the Holy Land such as Rishon Le-Zion in 1882 (meaning "The First in Sion"), Rosh Pina (although the city was in fact already inhabited by religious families who came earlier), Zikhron Yaacov, Hedera and so on. The financing of this organisation was secured by Jewish philanthropists of Europe such as Baron Edmond James de Rothschild in France. The Hovevei Zion was later merged with the Zionist Congress organization.
Beside the Russian Jews, Jews from Yemen also emigrated continuously to Ottoman Palestine from 1881 until the beginning of the first World War (1914). The reason was that the Suez Canal was opened to transport and that Turkey improved the travel authorizations within their empire. So Yemenite Jews were free to move. One of their first establishment in the Holy Land was in Siloam (Silwan), in the southern hill of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Old Jews in Jerusalem (ca. early 20th century)
By the year 1896, a census of the city of Jerusalem gave the following numbers: 45,420 total population, of which 8,560 Muslims (19%), 8,748 Christians (19%) and 28,112 Jews (62%). The Jews constituted 3/5 of the population of Jerusalem at the end of the 19th century. As the space allocated to them in the Old City was too small (the Jewish Quarter was 1/4 of the city), Jews were the first to establish setttlements outside the city walls.
Settlement of Yemenite Jews in Siloam - 1905
(source: The First Photographs of Jerusalem - the Old City, Ariel Publishing House, 1978)
From the Bar Kochba revolt in 132 CE until the First Aliyah in 1882, 1750 years have elapsed. This number corresponds to 35 jubilee periods (of 50 years each). The number 35 has divine message as being composed of the two significant numbers, 5 and 7. Equally to the fact that the Jews lost their nationhood in the 35th Generation, this time, after 35 jubilee periods they started their return to their land.
Nathan Marcus Adler served as Chief Rabbi for 46 years until his death in 1890 at the age of 87. He was succeeded in 1891 by his own son, Hermann Adler, who had also been born in Hanover. There is the following anecdote concerning him:~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Once he was having a lunch with British Catholic cardinal Herbert Vaughan. Cardinal asked the rabbi "Now, Dr. Adler, when may I have the pleasure of helping you to some ham?" The rabbi responded: "At Your Eminence's wedding". --- Epstein, Lawrence Jeffrey, "A treasury of Jewish anecdotes", 1989, p. 8, cited in Wikipedia
Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler -- photograph 1900
(source: Jewish Museum London)
Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who served in the French army and was from a Jewish family "exiled" in France after the region of Alsace had been annexed by Prussia following the 1870-1871 war, was swiftly accused by a military tribunal in December 1894 of having been a secret agent for the Germans in Paris. To effect this condemnation in the eyes of the public, at a time where the French army needed "good" publicity and support, it was decided to degrade Captain Dreyfus in the way of a formal and public "event" where scores of journalists were invited. The very read illustrated magazine, Le Petit Journal, published a drawing of the scene, where a "small" Dreyfus had his officers' symbols and sword broken by a "giant" French Hussard. The title of the drawing was Le Traitre (the traitor). The effect was devastating for Dreyfus in the French public opinion, and it can be said that, in this January 1895, nearly all France then thought that Dreyfus was guilty as charged.
The degradation of Alfred Dreyfus in 1895
Among the foreign press, Theodor Herzl, who was a correspondant from Vienna, witnessed the scene and, most importantly the flames from Anti-semitic press in France which stressed on the fact that Dreyfus was a Jew. This circumstance changed Herzl's life for ever as, although he, as Dreyfus himself, was quite an assimilated Jew, he came to realize that assimilation will never work for Jews, who will always be finger-pointed for their race or religion as aliens or potential traitors.
The Dreyfus case became an "affair" after some time when voices started to raise that the trial had been unfair and that the army arranged a cover-up, which proved to be true especially after the real culprit of the leaks to the German office in Paris was identified but acquitted in 1898 by the same military tribunal ! This sent France into a crisis and torn it into two camps. It took until 1906 for the innocence of Dreyfus to be widely accepted (if not by a certain group of people motivated by Anti-semitism), as he was finally acquitted and restored in the French army.
After the degradation of Dreyfus, Herzl was deeply absorbed in the reflection of what emancipation did to resolve the fate of the Jews. As he noted, France had been the beacon for emancipation in Europe, after having voted it first in a parliament some 100 years before, and Napoleon having imposed it to all his Empire in the years that followed, it was France who, in 1895, was first to prove that emancipation did not work, because Anti-semitism was deeply rooted. Herzl's proposed solution was that Jews should have their own state. He published a book, Der Judenstaat, some months after Dreyfus' degradation. Herzl introduced in this book the word Zionism which was immediately taken as the solution to the Jewish question.
Herzl during his travel to Palestine (1898)
Herzl was not sure about how his suggestion would be welcomed in the world. In his introduction, he concluded:
Am I before my time? Are the sufferings of the Jews not yet grave enough? We shall see. Now it depends on the Jews to make it either a political pamphlet or a political romance. If the present generation is too dull to understand it rightly, a future, a finer, and a better generation will arise to understand it. The Jews wish for a state - they shall have it, and they shall earn it for themselves. --- Herzl, Theodor, "A Jewish State, an attempt at a modern solution of the Jewish question", Maccabaean Publishing, 1904, Author's preface
Herzl, himself an assimilated Jew, painted assimilation as an "utopia":
For they [the Anti-semitic people] will not leave us in peace. For a little period they manage to tolerate us, and then their hostility breaks out again and again. [...] It is only pressure that forces us back to the parent stem; it is only hatred encompassing us that makes us strangers once more. Thus, whether we like it or not, we are now, and shall henceforth remain, a historic group with unmistakable characteristics common to us all. We are one people - our enemies have made us one in our despite, as repeatedly happens in history. [...] Yes we are strong enough to form a State, and a model State. --- ibid., page 24
The future proved him right. And his book, far from being seen as a "romance", generated tremedous interest and support in Jewish communities. Many non-Jews were also genuily interested in the solution of a state for the Jews. It only took a matter of some years for a political gathering to grab this project and make it a reality rather than leaving the initiative as a dream.
The first Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897. The first elected president of the newly formed Zionist Organisation (ZO) was obviously the great creator of this initiative, Theodor Herzl, who served in this role until his death in 1904. The financial arm of ZO was later formed as the Jewish Colonial Trust, with the goal to raise money, while the Jewish National Fund (JNF) was created subsequently with the goal to purchase land in Israel and develop agricultural Jewish projects or build new Jewish towns.
Iconic image of Theodor Herzl on the hotel balcony in Basel
(source: The Bettman Archive via Wikipedia)
The first venue of the Zionist Congress attracted some 200 participants from 17 countries. The public declaration resulting from the Congress was:
Zionism aims at establishing for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine. For the attainment of this purpose, the Congress considers the following means serviceable: 1. The promotion of the settlement of Jewish agriculturists, artisans, and tradesmen in Palestine. 2. The federation of all Jews into local or general groups, according to the laws of the various countries. 3. The strengthening of the Jewish feeling and consciousness. 4. Preparatory steps for the attainment of those governmental grants which are necessary to the achievement of the Zionist purpose.
The Congress also adopted its anthem, Hatikvah, which became the national anthem of the State of Israel.
The Kaizer Wilhelm II came to the Land of Israel in October 1898 to inaugurate the foundation of the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem's Old City. But his trip was highly politically motivated to increase German influence in the region and build strong ties with the Ottoman Empire. These ties would lead to a joint effort during World War I against the British who were de facto rulers of Egypt and operated the Suez Canal. Theodor Herzl, through the arrangement made by a confident of the Kaizer's family, Rev. Hechler who believed in the necessity for Jews to return to the Holy Land in order to fasten the second return of the Messiah (Jesus), obtained to meet with Wilhelm during this trip in order to mention the "Zionist" project to build Jewish colonies in the Holy Land. Herzl's goal was to get patronage from the Kaizer because the Sultan (Abdul Hamid II) was opposed to any such initiative. Getting Jews to settle in the Holy Land under the umbrella of Germany was probably the best approach at the time, giving the circumstances. For the Kaizer, the Zionist project also offered some benefit: German "subjects" community would be settling in the Holy Land thus facilitating German influence in the region over time. Beside the Jews, a community of German Templars had already settled in the Holy Land since 1868, so the Zionist project was nice to have but not a necessity. Herzl briefly met with the Kaizer informally at the entrance of the Jewish agricultural school "Mikve Israel" near Jaffa, but the next official meeting was supposed to take place in Jerusalem. Herzl and his colleagues arrived there by train (the new Jaffa-Jerusalem train service had been inaugurated some years before) but waited a few days until they could get a date and time for the appointment with the Kaizer, due to his very busy agenda. The meeting took place on 2 Novermber 1898 in the tent of Wilhelm, raised in a land spot on what is today the Street of the Prophets (the land was later given by the Sultan to the Kaizer and the house of the German Provost was built there). The Kaizer could not promise anything to Herzl but to try convince the Sultan to grant the Jews a settlement policy in the Holy Land under German patronage. Herzl came out of the meeting with a feeling that no progress was made.
Hezrl met Wilhelm in Mikve Israel in end October 1898
(this photo is a montage as the original photo was truncated)
But things proved to be not as bad as he saw them. First the Kaizer did raise the proposal to the Sultan when he met with him in Istanbul on his journey back: again the Sultan refused. This failure led Rev. Hechler, who had one parent British, to contact the British side to try on their side. The idea matured in the minds of some British politicians who shared the same religiouns conviction with Hechler. The idea of helping Jews return to the Holy Land had started in Britain in fact, over 150 years before this time. Later these British politicians came to power and were at war against the Ottoman Empire. On the same day, 19 years after the Hezrl-Wilhelm meeting, on 2 November 1917, Lord Balfour gave the famous "declaration" to the Jewish leaders in Britain. The Balfour Declaration favoured the establishment of a Jewish homeland in the Holy Land. It paved the way towards the future State of Israel, after Arab nations rejected any other proposal or compromise to do differently.
So, the Zionist project was supported by Germany first and Britain next. It was lucky that the Kaizer was not successful with the Sultan because, if the initiative would have succeeded, the "German subjects" Jewish community in the Holy Land would have been seen with suspicion, as the German Templars were, by the British rulers-to-be from 1917. Nobody can relly know what would have become of a German-Jewish community after World War I, or after the raise of Hitler to power in 1933, but suffice to say that the Zionist project was in better shape with British support.
The Protocols are a pamphlet aimed to accusing the Jews of taking part in a global conspiracy for their hegemony over the world. It is now widely believed that the author was the head of the Paris office for the Russian Secret Police. It is no surprised that, while he was in post in Paris at the time of the Dreyfus Affair, he came up with the idea of such pamphlet, borrowing from previous authors such as Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Maurice Joly and Hermann Goedsche (a German Anti-semitic writer). He was also influenced by the publication of Theodor Herzl's book which was parodied in the Protocols.
The book was first published in Russian in 1903 and remained unknown outside Imperial Russia. But, after the Revolution of 1917, it was taken to the Western world by refugees and translated into English very quickly. An edition circulating among U.S. government officials as early as 1919. Several U.S. industrialists, such as Henry Ford, were very Anti-semitic and saw the Jews being successful in various parts of the U.S. economy. They used their influence to promote the Protocols in their country. Ford for example financed the publication of half a million copies in the early 1920's.
Although, as early as 1921, The Times in London exposed the Protocols as a forgery, the pamphlet continued its damaging work in Western societies. Strangely translations didn't reach the Arab world before much later, in 1928 in Christian Cairo, but only in 1951 for an Arabic translation. Yet, the Protocols are still widely used in the Arab world today with regular publications.
The landmark article from The Times
that proved the Protocols to be a forgery
Of course, the Protocols became used by the Nazi propaganda with the rise of Adolf Hitler in German politics, at a time when a global financial crisis hit the Western economies. A scapegoat was readily found in the Jews...
Despite conclusive proof that the Protocols were a gross forgery, they had sensational popularity and large sales in the 1920s and 1930s. They were translated into every language of Europe and sold widely in Arab lands, the US, and England. But it was in Germany after World War I that they had their greatest success. There they were used to explain all of the disasters that had befallen the country: the defeat in the war, the hunger, the destructive inflation. --- Levin, Nora, extract cited in article "Hitler on the Protocols"; to read it online, click here
The Jews of Kishinev in Bessarabia (today's Moldova) suffered one of the worst pogrom that took place in Imperial Russia. It started because Church leaders instigated allegations of blood libel after one Christian boy was found dead in April 1903. The riots started after the mob left the church on Easter Sunday and lasted for three days, destroying 700 Jewish homes and causing scores of injuries and deaths. The police didn't make any attempt to stop the riots. This reason and other ones led to the general opinion that the authorities sponsored or looked at these pogroms favourably in order to divert the people from the real problems caused by the regime as expressed in the following extract from an article published in The Times:
Monday was the day when the worst crimes were committed, and these were perpetrated by bands of rioters in different parts of the town. Many people believe the riots to be the work of organised companies, and I was informed by a Jew that he had been told by a member of one such company that each company had its number. I cannot express an opinion as to the truth of this but there seems no doubt that rioting in its worst form went on simultaneously in widely different directions. Besides the murders committed, the interiors of houses were utterly dismantled, pillows ripped up, Jewish Scriptures torn, floors destroyed and furniture thrown into the street; while at an early stage wine was broached, that which was not drunk pouring into the street. The local authorities took no effective steps to stop the riots, which continued unabated till 4 p.m., or later, the soldiers meanwhile being passive, if not sympathetic, spectators and the police contenting themselves with the arrest of minor criminals. --- The Times, 13 August 1903, "The Kishineff Outrages", testimonial from the British vice-consul in Odessa
Victims of the Kishinev Pogrom (1903)
Abraham Isaac ha-Cohen Kook was born in 1865 in Latvia from a father who had been a student at the Volozhin yeshiva in Lithuania. In 1887, Kook became Rabbi for the first time in 1887, and started to publish his first and important works. In 1904, along with some 50,000 other Jews from the Pale Settlement (they formed the Second Aliyah), he immigrated to Ottoman Israel to become Rabbi of the city of Jaffa, although most of the Jews living there at the time were non-religious ones who worked the field in the agricultural school nearby, Mikveh Israel, or in new settlements established around the old city of Jaffa. The Second Aliyah was one which created the Kibbutz as a community of members living and working together. The first Kibbutz was Degania, founded in 1909, on the Eastern shores of the Lake of Tiberias (also called Sea of Galilee). In April 1909, some 60 Jewish families also moved out of the old city of Jaffa and settled in plots a bit north from the Arab city to their new homes: this is when the city of Tel Aviv was first erected from the sands.
After the First World War, in 1921, Rav Kook became the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, which was then under the new British Mandate established as a result of the Conference of San Remo in 1920.
Rav Kook is mostly remembered as having been the first religious figure to be openly in favour of Zionism, and his Religious Zionism ideology led scores of religious immigrants to make Aliyah . Rav Kook died in Israel in 1935 at the age of 70. One of his quotes is:
There could be a freeman with the spirit of the slave, and there could be a slave with a spirit full of freedom; whoever is faithful to his self – he is a freeman, and whoever fills his life only with what is good and beautiful in the eyes of others – he is a slave. --- Extract from Rav Kook's work "Arpilei Tohar", cited in Wikipedia
Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem early 20th century photograph - the Hurva syngogue in the background
Rav Kook also considered that Theodor Herzl, or Zionism in the broader sense, is what is referred in the Jewish eschatological literature as "Messiah ben Joseph", who is the person or entity that is supposed to gather the Jews from the corners of the Earth and assemble them back in their ancestral home. Nobody can argue that this is indeed happening. Messiah ben Joseph will ultimately be killed, or terminated, and replaced by Messiah ben David, the real Messiah per se.
The situation of the Jews in Imperial Russia became more and more pressing. Despite the international condemnation of the Kishinev pogrom, more massacres continued to be perpetrated. In october 1905, in a single week, more than 50 pogroms were recorded, one of them being the Bialystok pogrom.
Victims of Bialystok pogrom - October 1905
(source: Lossin, Yigal, "Pillar of Fire", Shikmona Publishing Co., 1983)
Isaac Halevy Rabinowitz was born in 1847 in Belarus from a rabbinical family. He studied at the Volozhin Yeshiva. In his most known six volumes work, Dorot Harishonim (meaning "The First Generations"), published in 1906, he covered Jewish history from the end of the Mishna period (1st and 2nd century CE) until the end of the Gaonim period (ca. 1040 CE), which offers a continuity with the Seder Olam Zuttah. He died in Hamburg in 1914.
Rabbi Isaac Halevy Rabinowitz
(source: Reichel, O. Asher, "Isaac Halevy (1847–1914): Spokesman and Historian of Jewish Tradition", New York ,1969)
Hermann Adler served as Chief Rabbi for 20 years until his death in 1911. He was succeeded in 1913 by Joseph Herman Hertz, a Hungarian-born rabbi who held this position during two world wars ! Previously to coming to Britain, he held posts in South Africa and New-York.
Hertz was a strong advocate for Sionism in the 1920-1930 and his position antagonised the opinion of influential British Jews. He also midly opposed Reform and Liberal Judaism. Beside these issues, Hertz was acknowledged for his erudition of the Scriptures and he published a well-known Commentary of the Torah (1929-1936) widely used in British synagogues, as well as Book of Jewish Thoughts (1917).
Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz
(source: JewishGen, Susser Archive)
During the German Blitz over London, the Great Synagogue was destroyed on 10 May 1941, Shabbat 13 Iyyar 5701.
Great Synagogue destroyed
(source: JewishGen, Susser Archive)
After it ended in 1918, WW-I has been described as the largest butchery of modern times. Yet the world would have to witness worse atrocities done to the human kind in the same 20th century, that started just a few years after the world had experienced the biggest leap in modernity, education, science, and the rest.
The theory of Karl Marx proved to be a failure when his followers assumed that, the war being motivated by rulers' interests in coloniasm and world domination, the proletarian masses of all the nations would rather "unite" their voices and refuse to serve: this did not happen. Nationalism proved a stronger vector than Socialism.
As for the Jews, they served their countries as all normal citizens. The recent ZO (Zionist Organisation) even declared itself "neutral" in the conflict. Yet, in Germany, Jews were required to sign humiliating declarations of "loyalty". And in Imperial Russia, they were looked upon with suspicion, of sympathy towards Germany. On the Eastern front, some 4 million Jews lived in the Pale Settlement at the time. The Tsarist army found it wiser to displace some 600,000 of them to other regions, in the fear they may join and ally with the enemy in case of invasion. In short, the world at war generally did not trust the Jews. As a result, after the war ended, the migrations of European Jews to Palestine was in the rise.
Troubles started for the Tsarist regime as early as 1905, showing that the attempts by the Russian authorities to blame the Jews as scapegoats did not work for them. Then Russia had a first defeat in the war against Japan in 1904-1905. The start of the war in late 1914 gave another blow to the regime as masses of people opposed further involvement in the conflict between Western powers, as soon as the first months of the war proved a disaster for Russia who was inflicted several defeats and losses. A series of strikes paralysed the country. In March 1917,Tsar Nicolas II abdicated and a provisional government was formed. This government was nonetheless not popular and another revolution led by Vladimir Lenin from the Bolshevik Party, in October 1917, toppled the regime. This triggered a civil war between the supporters of the Tsar, the White Army, and the Bolsheviks, the Red Army.
The White Army continued its rank against Jews, hoping to revive popular support in their favour, by blaming the Jews for the Bolshevik revolution. Some 100,000 Jews is estimated to have been killed during the Russian civil war, and 500,000 left homeless. Luckier ones opted to emigrate to Palestine as soon as it became possible. Meanwhile the Red Army abolished the Pale Settlement so Jews were free again to move to Russia.
Another pamphlet was produced by the White Army in 1917, The Jewish Bolshevism, and the conspiracy theory was later used by Nazis to mix Judaism with Communism, thus creating popular fear that the revolution of Russia was created by Jews who will spread it to the rest of Europe.
"Jewish Bolshevism" (Nazi propaganda)
The real fact is that, out of 10,000 members of the Bolshevik party in 1917, only 364 were Jews (3.6%). But it is true that some of them had prominent roles in the first political bureau, such as Trostky, Kamenev and Zinoviev. Yet, as it happens with many revolutions, a struggle for power ensues and all Jewish members of the initial political bureau were eliminated in the years that followed.
While a long stalemate that took place on the European fronts with Germany, Britain and France were in competition to gain much advantage in the forthcoming collapse of the vast Ottoman Empire. But France was busy defending their borders, and Britain played the most active role in this goal, swith two main strategies: one to effect an Arab uprising with the promise of creating a vast Arab kingdom with the Hashemite family, and second to enrol Jews from Ottoman Palestine to help a British army, led by General Allenby, to undermine the Ottoman authorities. This was done in exchange for the promise that Britain would support the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine:
His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. --- Lord Balfour's declaration to the Zionist Organisation, 2 November 1917
This declaration proved a huge success for the ZO which only had about 10 years of existence and yet became acknowledged so publicly as a spokesboby for the Jewish people worldwide. It is also remarkable that this turning point, which officially gave to the Jews a right on their own ancestral land, occurred just after a Sabbatical year (5677)which marked the renewal of the land of Israel.
The followong month, on 11 December 1917 (26 Kislev 5678), General Allenby liberated Jerusalem and entered the Holy City.
General Allenby entering Jerusalem by foot at the Jaffa Gate, 11 December 1917
Also remarkably, this event took place at the start of the Jewish festival of Chanukah 5678 (it starts on 25 Kislev). Why is is remarkable? Because this festival marked the return of Jewish rule over the Temple (after its desecration by foreign hands, the Seleucids). Many saw in Allenby a sort of "prophet", marking the start of the Messianic. After all his name in Hebrew is written אלנבי and when we read it left to right it could read נבי-אל which means "prophet of God". No less ! And he entered the Holy City on the day "26" Kislev, where 26 is the numerical value for God ! This is to say that Allenby was guided (or sent) by divine support. And he took the title of "Lord of Armageddon" at the end of his campain, to mark his last battle won at Megiddo, the "Armageddon" of the Christian Scriptures. This is to say that he, himself, saw his success as guided by God and that had been prophetized.
The Ottoman rule over the Holy City had lasted 400 years, from 1517 to 1917, as Rabbi Judah of Regensburg had predicted back in 1217.
In the prospect of the war to end soon, Chaim Weizmann and Emir Faisal, representing the two main bodies to benefit from British politics in the Middle-East, met in June 1918 to discuss the possible borders between the potential future Jewish "homeland" and the Faisal kingdom promised by the British. Weizmann declared that the Jews did not wish to set up their own government but will want to be able to settle agricultural colonies in Palestine, develop the country and make it to prosper compared to the abandoned state it was left in by the Ottomans. Weizmann also declared that the Jewish "homeland" would remained under British control, a step which obviously pleased Britian and did not antagonise Faisal. As a result, and in advance of the peace conference to be opened in Paris, Weizmann and Faisal signed an agreement which served as the basis for a settlement for their part of the region.
At the end of the war, and following the steps of the Zionist Congress that was perceived by the Arabs as a decisive influencer in the Balfour Declaration, the Arabs of Palestine formed the Palestine Arab Congress in 1919. Although they gained broad support from the Muslim and Christian population in Palestine, it never won recognition by Britain, who, as a reminder, had promised to the Faycal family an Arab kingdom. In addition the Palestine Arab Congress had no revendication to became a national entity, but their goal was to merge Palestine into Syria. This obviously didn't arrange the affairs of the winners of WW-I because Palestine was under British control while the control over Syria was being claimed by France in the Paris Peace Conference held in Versailles in January 1919. The two European powers had already held secret talks as early as May 1916, so-called the Sykes-Picot Agreement, where they agreed on the way to divide the Middle-East after the war.
The Palestine Arab Congress held meetings about every year from 1919 until 1931 when it excluded Christians from the organisation and turned more Islamic. Several members then formed different political parties, making things more complicated for the Palestinian Muslims to unite under a single representation.
The third mass emigration to Palestine started soon after the end of WW-I and was mostly from Russian and Polish Jews. Some 40,000 of them made Aliyah from the end of 1919. For the Jews of Russia, it was a way to escape from during the civil war and the Russian Revolution. For the Jews of Poland, it was a matter of escaping their deteriorating situation in that country which experienced various attacks as a British mission led by Sir Stuart Samuel in 1919 reported:
Wholesale slaughter of Jews to the number of 348 persons, and numerous cases of flogging, robbery, blackmail, and violent persecution unquestionably took place, and there was little or no remedy at law. In many cases the police, who appear to have been dishonest and undisciplined ruffians, were active in their aggression against the Jews whom they were supposed to protect. [...] At the time when the report was written, however, an intense anti-Jewish press campaign was raging throughout Poland, boycotts of Jews were being preached and practised, and Jews of all classes were subjected to public insult and minor acts of violence at all times and in all places.--- The Times, 5 July 1920, article titled "Jews in Poland - British Mission's Report - Cases of murder and ill-treatment."
The Aliyah however ended in 1931 when British Mandated authorities put a stop to Jewish emigration.
Third Aliyah pioneers creating Balfour Street in Tel-Aviv (source: Wikipedia)
But this Aliyah was restricted by the Zionist Organisation itself, who feared that the infrastucture in Palestine would not be able to absorb more than a certain number of immigrants. As a result, many more Jews from the Pale Settlement and Russia were compelled to rather move to Western Europe (such as Britain and France) and to the USA.
In an article published by The American Hebrew on 31 October 1919, former Governor of the State of New York, Martin H. Glynn, described the situation of the European Jews in these times:
From across the sea six million men and women call to us for help and eight hundred thousand little children cry for bread. [...] In this catastrophe, when six million human beings are being whirled toward the grave by a cruel and relentless fate, only the most idealistic promptings of human nature should away the heart and move the hand. [...] In this threatened holocaust of human life, forgotten are the niceties of philosophical distinction, forgotten are the differences of historical interpretation. --- Glynn, Martin H., "The Crucifixion of Jews Must Stop!", The American Hebrew, 31 October 1919, page 582This article was premonitory...
"The Crucifixion of Jews Must Stop!"
This post-war conference took place in San Remo, Italy, in April 1920. Its goal was to make decisions concerning the fate of the Middle-East following the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The main dispute was over Syria which was secretly promised by Britain to Faisal for his Arab kingdom whereas France had different view. This caused a war between France and Faisal's army a few months later and the exile of the later to England after losing to France. Concerning Palestine, the conference approved the Balfour Declaration and thus the region was passed under a British Mandate to effect the creation of a Jewish homeland and an Arab state:
The Mandatory [Great Britain] will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 8, 1917, by the British Government, and adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. --- San Remo Conference, resolutions of 24 and 25 April 1920 (Hebrew dates 6 and 7 Iyar 5680)
It is worth noting that the same conference mandated France over other parts of the former Ottoma Empire to create regional states, and thus the creation of countries such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon was derived from the same intenational conference that should have translated into the creation of two states under the British Mandate. Britain in fact created Jordan and gave it to the Hachemite family to create the kingdom that was promised to them, but held the western side of the Jordan River (the Holy Land) under their supervision without creating a Jewish homeland as mandated by the international resolutions. This resulted in enduring bitter conflict between Arabs and Jews in the years that followed. If Britain would have restrained to create Jordan until a full agreement would be reached between all parties, Arabs and Jews, for the division of the region of the British Mandate, the issues would have probably found a faster solution. But the granting of Jordan as an Arab state was only half of the task that Britain was mandated to perform, and caused much of the so-called Middle-East conflicts. Furthermore, contries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan had no more legitimacy to exist than the corresponding Jewish homeland in Palestine.
Map of the British Mandate (courtesy of Eli Hertz)
The news of the British Mandate did not please everyone in the region. Jews from two rival political parties, Communist and Socialist, decided each to do a march from Jaffa on 1 May 1921, Labor Day, to demonstrate against the British rule. The marches resulted in a fight between the two groups, and then Arabs joined in with knives, clubs, swords and pistols to kill the Jews. This turned into a pogrom into the neighbouring Jewish houses. During the unrest, Yosef Chaim Brenner, a Jewish poet from Russia who immigrated to Ottoman Palestine in 1909 and became a pioneer of modern Hebrew litterature, was murdered with other tenants of a Jewish hostel where they lodged. The Jaffa riots were probably the first incident of the kind, between Jews and Arabs, of the British Mandate.
Meri Shapira was a Chasidic rabbi from Lublin, Poland. He descended from one of the students of the Baal Shem Tov. His major contribution to religious Jewry was the the study of one folio (two pages) of the Talmud per day which, translated into the number of pages of the total Talmud, meant a cycle of studies that lasted seven and a half years. This was called the Daf Yomi (meaning Daily Folio). The start of the Daf Yomi's first cycle was on Rosh Hashanah 5684 (11 September 1923). Over the years, the programme has engaged many more students and today, the end of the cycle of study is always commemorated by events gathering large crowds. In 2012, at the end of the last 7.5 years cycle, the event gathered 90,000 Orthodox Jews in New Jersey, USA.
Sadly, Meir Shapira died young from typhus, in 1933 at the age of 46. He can be considered as having been one of the most important enablers to religious study.
Meir Shapira - founder of the Daf Yomi
In late August 1929, following a dispute between Jews and Arabs about the Western Wall, demonstrations turned into riots, and even caused pogroms on 24 August in Hebron and Safed. It was the first time that Jews of the Holy Land experienced such events normally reserbed to Christian Europe.
Jewish property destroyed in Safed during the 1929 riots in Palestine
The British authorities used force to stop the rioters, who were mostly Arab and thus experienced casualties at the hand of the police and army. An investigation (the Shaw Commission) was led after the quiet was restored. It was proven that the disturbance did start because of the dispute at the Western Wall, caused in fact by the Mufti of Jerusalem who arranged to have noisy events just above the Jewish holy place to disturb their religious festival. The disturbance then spread to the rest of Palestine when Arabs spread the rumour, for example in Hebron, that the Jews were murdering Muslims in Jerusalem. The Commission proved these allegations unfounded. They were created to cause public unrest and raise the Arabs against their Jewish neighbours.
The crisis leading to this event led some intellectuals to assess the case for Zionism. One pacifist priest wrote:
This is the country to which the Jews have come to rebuild their ancient homeland. [...] On all the surface of this Earth there is no home for the Jew save in the mountains and the well-springs of his ancient kingdom. [...] Everywhere else the Jew is in exile. [...] But, Palestine is his. [...] Scratch Palestine anywhere and you’ll find Israel. [...] There is not a spot which is not stamped with the footprint of some ancient [Jewish] tribesman. [...] Not a road, a spring, a mountain, a village, which does not awaken the name of some great [Jewish] king, or echo with the voice of some great [Jewish] prophet. [...] [The Jew] has a higher, nobler motive in Palestine than the economic. [...] This mission is to restore Zion; and Zion is Palestine.”--- Holmes, John Haynes, Palestine Today and Tomorrow – a Gentile’s Survey of Zionism, McMillan, 1929
Despite the conclusions of the Shaw Commission of 1929, the British authorities decided a year later to impose a restriction to Jewish immigration from 1930. The Hope-Simpson report which put forward this recommendation was called the White Paper.
So, in essence, the doors to Palestine were closed to Jews from October 1930 at a time when, in Europe, Fascism, unemployment and Anti-semitism were on the rise following an unprecedented financial crisis caused by the Wall Street Crash of 1929.
The rise to power of Hitler in 1933 signalled the religious establishment in Europe that Judaism would become at risk of survival. A decision was made in Lithuania, in imitation of what the Patriarch Jacob did before his feared encounter with Edom/Esau, to divide the leaders of the Torah so that they could save students with them and re-build schools of Torah study outside Europe. One group went to USA, another to Britain, and the third went to Palestine under the leadership of religious leaders such as Rav Abraham Yeshaya Karelitz (the so-called Chazon Ish which is the name of this main published work). He was followed in 1940 by Rav Elazar Shach, also from Lithuania.
The Chazon Ish is remembered among the religious circles as having argued in 1952 against David Ben Gurion (the first Prime Minister of Israel of a Labour government) against his proposed law to enroll the maidens into military service. His argument was that, if young girls would be taken out of their parents home into military or even civil service, hey would be exposed to assimilation and a portion of them would be deviated from the Torah. The Chazon Ish argued that young boys taken from the yeshivot into the army could become lost to the Torah and even some yeshivot could close, but losing young girls would be worst because it would mean losing Jewish homes. The Rav argued that Judaism could survice the lack of yeshivot but not the lack of Judaism in the homes.
The law was however passed, due to the personal insistence of Ben Gurion, but was never applied to religious people. It took until the arrival of a Conservative government in Israel, under Prime Minister Menachem Begin, to change the law and remove this obligation for the young religious girls, if they did not wish to enroll.
The Chazon Ish (1878-1953)
Ze'ev Jabotinsky was born in Odessa in 1880 from an assimilated Jewish family. After the Kishinev Pogrom of 1903, he became Zionist and established a Jewish self-defense organisation to try protect the Jews from the Anti-semitic riots that took place in these times. His motto was then to better have a gun and no need it, rather than need a gun and not have it. In 1904 he moved to Saint-Petersburg and was the publisher of a magazine, Jewish Life. In his columns, he showed fierce criticism against assimilation, and the Bund. During WW-I, he organised a mule corps composed of Jewish fighters to take part of the liberation of Palestine, along the British troops, from the Ottoman Empire. He even served in one regiment of the British Army in Palestine, and received an MBE decoration for his military services. In 1920, he founded the Revisionist movement, and its youth branch, the Betar, with the aim of organising the self-defense of the Jews. In 1930, during a trip to South-Africa, he was informed by the British authorities there that he was not allowed to return to Palestine, in application of the new White Paper.
Jabotinsky returned to Europe only to witness the rise of Anti-semitism. He knew too well from personal experience how fast could things turn bad for the Jews, and campained to negotiate an "evacuation plan" in 1936 for those of Poland, Hungary and Romania to be sent them to Palestine. The plan was actually approved by the heads of government from all three countries but met the opposition of the British Government who had shut the doors of Palestine to Jewish immigration. The plan was also dismissed by Chaim Weizmann, the chairman of the Zionist Organization, probably as a wish not to openly confront the British policy with such plan. Jabotinsky went on to warn Jewish communities in Eastern Europe around 1938 to effect their aliyah to Palestine by themselves or, else, to face a wave of "super-pogroms". His warnings fell in deaf ears.
Jabotinksy found refuge in USA during WW-II, where he died in 1940. His ashed were later brought back to the State of Israel in 1964. His doctrine served as the basis for the Herut and Likud political parties in Israel.
The crisis of 1929 created millions of unemployed persons in the world. In Germany, it was very severe and took the local currency to its lowest levels with huge inflation. This situation brought the Nazi Party to power after the elections of March 1933. Less than 12 months later, Hitler managed to gain the full powers, in other words turned Germany in a legalised dictatorship. A few months later the old president von Hindenburg died. Hitler engaged the country in a program of reconstruction and rearmament (not normally authorized since the end of WW-I) which took unemployment down from 6 to 1 million between 1932 and 1936. With a policy of bullying and personal threats, Hitler progressively got rid of all potential political opponents by resignations or otherwise and, by 1938, gained the effective control of the armed forces.
In the night of 9-10 November 1938, the Nazi Party executed a well-organised plan to destroy all Jewish religious life in Germany and Austria (which had been united to Nazi Germany by the Anschluss in March of that year). On that night, they attacked and burned over 1000 synagogues as well as Jewish homes, schools, hospices, and so on. Over 30,000 Jews were also rounded up and incarcerated in concentration camps. Kristallnacht (the Night of Crystal, so-called because of the broken glass in all the synagogues) marked a turning point of Nazi Germany in their racist treatment towards the Jews. Hitler was ready to follow his doctrine of a superior Aryan race, as he had expressed it in his work Mein Kampf published a few years earlier.
The Liberal synagogue of Berlin after Kristallnacht
After the war, Pastor Martin Niemöller stated his cowardice, and the one of the ordinary German people, as all stood silent when the Nazis started to eliminate step after step the Communists, then the Jews, then the Tziganes, and more:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak out— Because I was a Protestant.Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak for me.--- Martin Niemoller (1892-1984)
At the dawn of war, when Germany openly persecuted his Jews, the nations of the free world closed their doors to them, while in Mandate Palestine immigration levels were kept under very low figures so that Britain would not antagonise the Arabs. One story illustrated, maybe more than any other, the trap in which the Jews, with no homeland and no shelter, were exposed to. In 1939, about 1000 German Jews were given authorisation to leave Germany on a ship called the St. Louis. The ship sailed from Hamburg in May 1939 to cross the Atlantic. The U.S. ambassador in London, Joseph Kennedy, father of "JFK", future President of USA, a known anti-Semite who once declared that "as a race, they [the Jews] stink", cabled Washington to warn of the arrival of the ship and prevent their acceptance as immigrants to USA. The St. Louis first reached Cuba, so that the Jewish refugees would be able to wait for a US visa to immigrate. But Cuba had already taken some 2,500 Jewish refugees from Europe and were not prepared to accept more, so they denied entry. The ship then sailed to Florida, very close to Miami, but the US authorities did not accept these refugees in their vast country on the reason that immigration quotas had already been reached for the year 1939. Canadian authorities were also approached to accept refugees but they refused too. Finally the St. Louis had no other choice but to sail back to Europe in June 1939 where she arrived a few weeks later. Britain, France and Belgium admitted most of the refugees, which enabled about half of the passengers of this doomed journey to survive the Holocaust.
The St. Louis in Hamburg, May 1939
(courtesy: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)
 For more information about the Jews in the Bolshevik Party who led the Russian Revolution of 1917, check the relevant Wikipedia page
 To read an article about the creation of the city of Tel Aviv, click here
[3a] To read about the May Laws in the online Jewish Encyclopedia, click here
[3b] To read about the fate of the European monarchies in England, France, Spain and Portugal who expelled their Jews, click here
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